NorthJersey.com

Bank Of America Calls Attention To The Good Things It Does

The Record (NorthJersey.com) — Thursday, July 14, 2011

BY RICHARD NEWMAN
STAFF WRITER
The Record

Bank of America, which has been a lightning rod for criticism and lawsuits amid the nation's worst-ever home foreclosure crisis, wants to call attention to itself — for a good reason. The country's largest bank Wednesday unveiled its first-ever Social Responsibility Report, outlining accomplishments in community development lending, charitable giving and in making products and services "fair and transparent."

The Charlotte, N.C.-based lender, the biggest in New Jersey, said Wednesday it modified more than 285,000 mortgages for distressed homeowners last year, made $200 million in philanthropic donations and provided $168.5 billion in community development lending and investments.

The report said that in New Jersey — where its market-leading share of deposits has been declining amid branch closings — the bank provided more than $5.6 billion in loans and investments for affordable housing last year, including mortgage loan modifications and financing for housing for low- and moderate-income households.

Bank of America also provided more than $645 million in small-business loans and lines of credit in the state and about $5 million in charitable giving.

Like most of the country's largest banks, Bank of America has earned a reputation for imposing excessive fees, providing low rates on savings and offering indifferent service. Its reputation has been further tarnished by its troubles in dealing with foreclosures and loan modifications.

The problems stem mainly from its 2008 acquisition of the troubled mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Inc., said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of consumer watchdog New Jersey Citizen Action, which receives funding from Bank of America and other banks to provide homeowner counseling services.

"It seems that they are trying to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem,'' Salowe-Kaye said, "but they clearly were part of the problem."

"Bank of America is committed to making opportunities possible for customers and clients by responding to their financial needs, helping drive economic growth and supporting the communities where we do business," Brian Moynihan, Bank of America's chief executive officer, said in a statement. The 87-page report "provides an overview of important company initiatives and helps illustrate the progress we've made."

The company broke with the rest of the industry last year by eliminating overdraft fees for point-of-sale debit-card transactions and has taken steps to make fee disclosures more clear for customers.

Since 2007 it has invested $11.6 billion in solar and environmental projects as part of a $20 billion, 10-year plan, the report said.

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